When I was on a college visit day to USI, before I had even decided on a major, I learned that a group of social work students visited Jamaica every year to do work at an orphanage. Though this was not a primary deciding factor in choosing a major for me, it was one of the things that I took as a sign that I was heading in the right direction. Travel and helping people are two things I have always been passionate about.
Fast forward three years later, and I am here…
Anyone who has been to Jamaica will likely tell you it’s a beautiful country. And they’re absolutely right. I spent most of my time in Mandeville, a town up in the mountains about three hours away from the coast.
After spending two long, hot hours waiting in line at customs in the Montego Bay airport, we got on a bus that would take us up to Mandeville. The driving in Ghana was pretty crazy, but it was nothing like what I experienced in Jamaica! The professor in charge of the trip demanded that we take Dramamine before the bus ride even if we did not normally get motion sickness. The speed, the sharp turns, the winding mountain roads…I honestly don’t know how anyone survives it on a daily basis. If I wasn’t so relaxed from the anti-emetics, I might have been a little worried. But I was too mellowed out. Jamaica kind of has that effect on a person anyway.
The first place we visited in Jamaica was the St. John Bosco Boys’ Home. The boys living here have either been in some kind of trouble with the law or are victims of poverty, abuse, homelessness, etc. I was overwhelmed at how I was greeted with boys grabbing at my hands, eager to have someone to talk to. The home only has two women running it and about 160 boys living there; individualized attention is just not realistic. The main reason we visit the boys’ home is to simply provide them with companionship.
Some boys have traumatic backstories, and I did not feel that it was my place to ask too many questions about that. But the ones that volunteered this information to me…wow. One boy told me about trying to defend his family in a physical altercation that ended up with him getting in trouble by the police. He basically said all he wanted was to hug his mother again. You bet I choked back some tears hearing that.
Another quiet, shy boy simply grabbed my hand and leaned into me. He didn’t speak much, but I could sense that he had been through something traumatic. We visited the home a few times throughout the week, and when I talked to him, he just clung to me, sometimes wiping away tears, sometimes sucking his thumb. All he wanted was physical contact and attention. My heart breaks again just wondering what he has been through.
I could go on about these boys all day. They all want love and attention even if they ask for it in ways we’ve never experienced. Since I still have so much traveling I want to do in my life, I don’t have any plans to return to anywhere just yet…but Jamaica might be the exception, all because of the incredible Bosco boys.
More to come regarding Jamaica! One love!
P.S. You can visit stjohnbosco.net to learn more or make a donation to the home. 🙂